By Austin Miller
When hunting the West, an important piece of gear is a sturdy tripod. A good tripod makes all the difference in the world when you are glassing big country for Elk, Deer, Bears, etc. A tripod is a tripod… right? To some that may be the case. When you spend hours behind glass, whether that’s with binoculars or a spotting scope you’ll know what I mean. The best tripod you can afford is a huge advantage. When you’re glassing a couple miles on full zoom on a spotter you don’t want the tripod moving around, or it is going to give you a head ache. The same goes when you’re using high power binoculars. What I look for in a tripod is well constructed design as well as something that’s going to be stable whether I am sitting or standing. Below, you will read reviews on tripods ranging from entry level to high-end. Let’s dive into this.
VORTEX HIGH COUNTRY: RECREATIONAL TRIPOD
Review: This tripod is entry level and an excellent option for someone who is planning to hunt recreationally. I personally used this tripod for several years when I began to hunt. There are several features that I liked; it was compact, light-weight and has a good warranty. Its compact nature made it easy to handle and allowed for ease of storing in my pack. The weight, at 2.1 lbs., was not too heavy and easy to manage in the overall weight of my pack. Vortex products all come with a VIP warranty, which means that the company will fix or replace any part, no questions asked. This tripod is an entry level model and does have a couple of features that caused frustration. This tripod is constructed with aluminum/steel and not as ideal as a carbon fiber frame. This tripod has a ball pan head with a release lever to loosen the tension so a person can move the optics around until it is in its desired position. Although the feature is nice, the lever has only one small screw holding the pan head in place and it came loose frequently, resulting in the loss of the screw and lever while out on a hunt.
SPECS: 2.1 lbs, Fully extends to 52.3” and down to 15” tall
Where to Buy: Link to purchase the Vortex High Country
VORTEX SUMMIT SS-P: RECREATIONAL
Review: The Summit SS-P is also an entry level tripod, but the construction is a step-up from the “High Country.” I enjoyed this tripod as I became more serious about hunting. There are several features that are appealing. This tripod weighs 2 lbs and is compact, allowing for easy storage in the pack. In addition, it is a sturdy frame, made of aluminum/steel. I like how the legs deploy on this tripod, they extend by twisting the knuckles and pulling down the legs. The pan head on this tripod was constructed securely. It has a handle that loosens and tightens, allowing for movement of the optics to the preferred position. Although the structure is reliable, there is one feature that was frustrating. When using the pan head and handle in a scanning mode, it was not as smooth as I prefer. Overall, this tripod is an excellent option for the recreational hunter.
SPECS: 2.0 lbs, Fully extends to 54.5” and down to 6.3” tall
Where to Buy: Link to purchase the Vortex Summit SS-P
Review: The Leupold Tripod is classified as an intermediate tripod and is used by more advanced hunters/outdoorsmen. This tripod is slightly heavier than the entry level tripods reviewed earlier, at 2.5 lbs. It is compact and can easily be stored in a pack. A notable feature of this tripod is the carbon fiber construction. This tripod is sturdy in both sitting and standing positions, with the legs extending by twisting at the knuckles and pulling down to desired length. This makes for a fast set up out in the field, something I look for in the tripods I use. Fully extended this tripod blew me away. Also, it was incredibly sturdy fully extended. The panning head on this tripod is designed with quality in mind. It has an adjustable panning arm, easy to use knob to lock up and down movement, and one set screw type allowing it to spin left to right. In addition, there seems to be a built in clutch in the head that allows for smooth glassing. Furthermore, the user does not have to lock the head down for hands free use. What I mean by hands free is, if you're glassing and something catches your eye, there is nothing you need to do to be able to take your hands off the tripod to reach for a range finder or to pull up the binoculars. Lastly, the micro adjustments with this head are simple and smooth, due to the built in clutch. The construction of this piece of gear is quality and is what drives the price.
SPECS: 64 oz, Extends 67” tall and folds down to just 18.5”
Where to Buy: Link to purchase the Leupold Kit
Review: There wasn't too much of a difference with this tripod over the Leupold; the main difference is the head on the top. The legs on this tripod are the same twisting knuckles that allow for fast deployment in the field/whatever you're using the tripod for. It didn't take me long to get familiar with this tripod. Has a lot of similar features to the others. This is a sturdy tripod in both sitting and standing positions; fully extended it gets shaky compared to the Leupold. This tripod is a touch slenderer which could easily cause the shake fully extended. The construction of the Slik is done very well; it’s built to handle a lot. For being so light I don't know what more you could want in a tripod. The pan head on the top is solid as a rock, very simple and easy to use. It has a pan knob paired with an adjustable arm for up and down movements. This doesn't have any kind of clutch built in, but the adjustments are so minute to be able to move this head where you want to look, which makes glassing a breeze. This comes with a bit more of a cost then the Leupold and you can't go wrong either way in my opinion.
SPECS: 5.2 lbs, Extends 70.8” tall and folds down to a compact 23.2” tall
Price: These are two separate items not sold together. Total Price for this set up: $549.94
Where to Buy: Link to purchase the Slik Tripod
Where to Buy: Link to purchase the Outdoorsmans Pan head
At the end of this review it was a toss-up between the Leupold and the Slik with the pan head. After running both these tripods I found what I like and what I do not. The kind of places I hunt, I’m not opposed to having a touch more weight to ensure what I feel is the best for the job. I would go with the Leupold over the Slik, but that's just one person’s opinion. All these tripod have their pros and cons. It’s ultimately up to the user to decide which is best for them and their hunts/outings. The Leupold is best tripod for spotting scopes I have ever used, incredibly smooth and seamless. Keeps my optics steady and doesn't give me headaches, ergonomically the tripod is perfect for my bigger stature. If there are any further questions don't be afraid to reach out!